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September 30, 2010

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Queuing before sunrise for Crown of the East

FIVE months into the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, visitors still queue before sunrise to see the magnificent red China Pavilion.

Even in pouring rain, there are long lines at the Expo site's entrances to claim the 30,000 daily tickets handed out by volunteers to the 69-meter-high star attraction.

The tickets are usually snapped up within five minutes. Enthusiasm hasn't waned a bit and is especially keen as China prepares to celebrate its National Pavilion Day tomorrow.

Within the Expo site, the most frequent questions asked by visitors is "how to get in to the China Pavilion."

Visiting the pavilion is a matter of Chinese pride.

Despite repeated announcements and national broadcasts that the China Pavilion will remain open after the six-month Expo, Chinese are doing almost anything to get inside. Some camp overnight outside the Expo gates to be first in line for tickets.

Shanghai white-collar Shen Mingjuan has visited the site three times but was not able to enter the pavilion. She is planning a fourth visit.

"Without visiting the China Pavilion, I cannot say I have really visited the World Expo," she says.

Towering at 69 meters, the pavilion's inverted red pyramid "crown" is nearly three times as high as other pavilions.

The sight is awesome.

Breitfeld Joachin from Germany says he is attracted by the clear lines and vivid traditional Chinese red color.

"It looks ancient, it looks modern, and it looks very high design," says Felipe Buitrago from Colombia.

The 72-year-old architect of the China Pavilion, He Jingtang, says it's a challenge to present China with a single shape but he finally decided on the dougong, or ancient interlocking corbel brackets. He says the inverted pyramid shape symbolizes the spirit of the Chinese people against the background of a rising nation.

The pavilion's theme is "Chinese Wisdom in Urban Development" and exhibitions reflect the traditional Chinese philosophy of humanity in harmony with nature. Its three sections - Footprint, Dialogue and Actions - take visitors on journey to discover the nation's ideas on the evolution of cities.

Excursion trains let visitors appreciate ancient elements of urban planning, including bridges, dougong construction and traditional courtyards.

The exhibition also features a low-carbon lifestyle that could shape the future of Chinese cities, including zero-carbon concept vehicles, solar energy systems and a facility that turns algae into energy.

But the biggest attraction is probably the 128-meter-long giant animated projection of the national treasure painting, "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" painted during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Visitors watch the 700 people plus animals move about and do different things - trading, performing magic, praying and traveling.

"Our ancestors had the concept of 'Better City, Better Life.' The high-tech theme is used to replay the original motif. It's very striking," says architect He.

Children also contributed to the pavilion. They were asked to imagine and paint a good city life in the future. Their works are displayed.

Stefan Zurfluh from Switzerland is among the few foreign visitors who were lucky to visit the China Pavilion. He says he was most inspired by the children's paintings, including some with cities situated in concentric circles of roads and green space.

Zurfluh, whose field is business innovation, says the idea inspired him greatly.

After the close of this half-year event on October 31, the Crown of the East will remain as a landmark. It might be turned into a museum - that's one proposal.

No matter how it is used, the building will remain an icon reminding people of World Expo 2010 Shanghai.


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